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Bad Food Makes Bad Moods Worse, Study Finds

Got the blues? Unhealthy eating may only make things worse.

Close-up of a cupcake with rainbow sprinkles

Photo: Eva Blue (flickr)

On second thought, maybe a carrot sounds better.

“Comfort food” may not be so comforting after all.

Researchers with Penn State University have found that consuming junk food does not help an already sour mood for women.

131 college-aged women who considered themselves very body conscious but without an eating disorder were told to monitor what they ate and their feelings.

What researchers discovered is that if a woman was already in a bad mood and ate junk food, she felt worse about herself. If she was in a good mood, however, her mood remained good.

It wasn’t simply unhealthy food that worsened women’s moods, but unhealthy habits also, like binge eating.

Researchers are hoping the study can aid future treatment for eating disorders.

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Liz Leslie

Liz Leslie is a journalist based in Chicago. When she's not writing about food, she's likely eating food. Or dreaming about food.

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  • Kira Bennett

    I wonder about this study, though. If the women self-describe as “very body conscious,” don’t they likely feel guilty for eating “bad” food? If you imbue your food with moral qualities according to your perception of its fat content, sugar content, etc., it’s going to have a different impact on your mood than if you enjoy sweet or fatty foods as indulgent treats. I see eating the occasional afternoon cookie as doing something nice for myself, not as succumbing to moral turpitude, so cookies improve my mood rather than making me feel worse.

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